Many times an adult is diagnosed with ADD or ADHD after a child is diagnosed. Then light bulbs go off in the other spouse's head as behaviors that hurt and sabotage the marriage are recognized as symptoms of ADHD and not a lack of caring or motivation.
Even with this awareness, the presence of AD/HD in a marriage can lead to unhealthy responses by a non-ADHD spouse along with feelings of being overwhelmed and resentful.
If the spouse with ADHD is in denial or uses the diagnosis as an excuse for continuing harmful behaviors, it can drive a spouse to being at her/his wits' end.
"Experts say many of them [adults with attention disorders] struggle at home, where their tendency to become distracted is a constant source of conflict. Some research suggests that these adults are twice as likely to be divorced; another study found high levels of distress in 60 percent of marriages where one spouse had the disorder." "Attention Disorders Can Take a Toll on Marriage" by Tara Parker-Pope on NYTimes.com (2010).
Negative ADD/ADHD Behaviors and Consequences That Can Hurt Your Marriage
- Lack of Follow Through and Irresponsibility. When it comes to household chores, your spouse does not follow through or accept any responsibility for the disorganization in your home or for household maintenance. A messy house and who does what and when is a major issue in your marriage.
- Interruptions. Your spouse interrupts you and others a great deal to the point where you think what's the point in trying to have a conversation and you are embarrassed by the apparent rudeness towards your friends and family members.
- Denial. Your spouse won't admit to making a mistake -- even when it is obvious. Your partner may also deny the ADHD diagnosis.
- Distraction. When your spouse is inattentive , easily distracted, or impulsive, you feel like climbing a wall and disappearing.
- Nagging. You dislike yourself for doing a lot more nagging but you don't know what else to do to get your disorganized spouse to finish anything, or put anything away, or keep promises, etc.
- Financial Problems. Your financial situation is precarious because your spouse is not good at handling money, overspends, forgets to pay bills, can't keep a job, and/or won't talk about money problems with you.
- Parent Role. You often feel more like a parent than an equal partner to your spouse. You find yourself reminding your forgetful spouse about taking medications, meeting appointments, remembering birthdays, completing projects, etc.
- Low Sex Marriage. Your sexual relationship is less than either of you would like it to be.
- Decisions. Making decisions or talking about difficult issues with your spouse is nearly impossible.
- Being Ignored. As your spouse retreats into a computer game or other project, you may feel ignored or think that your marriage is in a rut but your spouse doesn't see your marriage in the same way.
- Uneasiness. Walking on egg shells around your spouse is the only way you find you can keep the peace in your marriage.
While these are not all the actions and behaviors associated with AD/HD that can hurt a marriage, they are classic examples. Even though your marriage may be challenged by these behaviors, with proper diagnosis, treatment, and a willingness of both of you to create positive coping strategies, you two can have a successful and joyful marriage. Also, do not try to diagnose yourself or your spouse. Seek professional help for the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.
Book Recommendations for ADHD Marriages (Available for Purchase on Amazon)
Married to Distraction (2010) by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., Sue George Hallowell, LICSW, Melisa Orlov
Quote: "At the very least, intimacy requires attention. Without attention, emotional closeness is impossible. Distraction is to an intimate conversation as water is to fire." p.12
The ADHD Effect on Marriage (2010) by Melissa Orlov
Quote: "They're [people with untreated ADHD] likely to burn through friendships and dating relationships faster than average and be more prone to marital discord and divorce." p. 327
*Article updated by Marni Feuerman